Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Out to Lunch

A quick note to say that I will be away from the computer - as well as my self - for the next ten days as I take part in a 10 day Vipassana Meditation course.

Some people have voiced a desire that I not get involved with any groups like the
Hare Krishna, and I can say that I have not, as of yet, taken up residence with the faithful.

If you are interested, you can check out the
"Code of Disipline" for this monestary, or you can read more about the organization here.

Those who bristle at the idea of a "Meditation Course" can find relief in the fact that, although they are a Buddhist monestary, religion will not be covered. This is not evangelical Buddhism, nor is it a money making venture - the course is free (though of course donations are acceptable). It is simply a time to sit and direct all your energy towards meditation in the presence of people who spend alot of time doing just that.

Notes from Prachuap Khiri Khan

In response to some people's questioning, yes, I have been bicycling in Thailand these last few weeks. Granted I've been relaxing as well, but I can report that I have cycled exactly 923 km over 8 days of cycling. I've been in Thailand about 19 days now, so it's not been too much like work. Those are THE STATS. I considered, for about 2 seconds, posting daily stats under headings like TOTAL DISTANCE, AVERAGE SPEED, DAILY KILOMETERS, ELEVATION GAIN, WIND DIRECTION, AVE CADENCE, because that would be really cool. Right? Oh, no. Boring.

At the end of the day, I tend to be tired and I've been going to bed early. Blogging has not been high on my list of priorities. But, today is different.

I realized that pictures of Thai architecture have been lacking... so here's one remedy for that.

I've also realized that a lot of my pictures idealize the Thai landscape, essentially reflecting my own vision of what I wish Thailand was like. What I mean is, it doesn't all look like this (quiet, empty, rural...). But, a lot does. I will try to start taking more representative pictures.

In that vain, here's a great pic.

As well, here are some pics from my interesting visa run into Myanmar. Here we are crossing the mouth of the river in our charted boat (we being a nice Norwegian guy and his Thai father in-law I met in immigration), with our destination straight ahead. As for the boy... I'm not sure what he was doing on the boat.

And here is the greatest immigration checkpoint I have ever been through. It was a little wooden house on stilts on the first island in Myanmar territory. All boats had to stop, and we jumped off and showed our passports. The five dollars American I paid helped smooth the whole process as well (in this case, not a bribe... a "fee" for two day visa free entry). Note the Myanmar flag flying proudly, if not free. Surprisingly similar to Taiwan's flag... hmmm. What's the connection?

You might think I was trying to get a picture of this beautiful temple, but in fact my original intention was to get a good picture of the Myanmar Lager signs you can see below outside the restaurant where I imbibed in said lager. Then WHOA big temple. Ok, nice pic anyway.

And finally, here's an actual pic of Kawthoung, a town where I got a nice stamp, a nice pair of fisherman's shorts, a nice Burmese longyi (also called a "lungi" in India, a "sarong" in Thailand, or a "skirt" Canada), and a nice glass of lager.

I was also offered cigarettes, whiskey, and viagra, at very competitive prices. I'll be taking orders next time. I'll let you know.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

and now, by popular demand...

a picture of a cow in the back of a truck.

oh yeah, and here's a picture of me standing on JAMES BOND ISLAND. Yes, it's true. You too can fly half way around the world to come to this amazing scenic location, as featured in the action packed THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, a film considered by many a critics to be THE GREATEST ACTION ADVENTURE OF ALL TIME.

But, anyway...

I just spent the best time of this trip yet on Mu Ko Surin National Park, about 60 km of the coast of Thailand in the Andaman. I camped and snorkled and read and ate expensive rice on the beach for 4 days. I would have stayed for a lot longer, but unfortunately I'm under some deadlines here. The park is famous for snorkeling, and it was beautiful as promised. Apart from the coral and colourful fish, I also spotted black tipped reef sharks (once a group of three, but don't worry mum, they are harmless) and swam with a huge sea turtle.

Unfortunately that's all over now, and I am in a town called Ranong just across the river from Myanmar. Tomorrow I will cross the river into Myanmar, get a stamp, then recross the river and get another stamp. These stamps, you see, are very important. You might think Im going there just to say "I've been to Myanmar, I've been to Myanmar" at inappropriate times (and I'm not saying I won't), but actually I need to do this visa run so I can stay in Thailand longer.

Nothing really very interesting to say right now, so I won't.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Krabi to Phangnga

A few pics from my first day of real biking. It was about 110 km on beautiful sealed roads, about half main and half back roads.

There was a lot of rotisserie chicken on the sides of the road around lunch time, though I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of that...

In the early afternoon I had to stop for lunch in the middle of nowhere. I was stuck between here and there, REALLY hungry, when I finally spotted what appeared to be a restaurant in some family's front yard (as all restaurants are here in the country side).

I caused quite a stir amoungst the ten or so people lounging in the shade, but after a few seconds they pushed a young man towards me. Having been delegated as the english speaker, he got right down to business. "What... you... want?"

"I want to eat..." (making eating motions) "Restaurant?" (pointing at the ground in front of my feet).

This set off another flury of discussion, which lead to "Here... only... Thai people food."


About two minutes later I was presented with a huge platter with at least six different kinds of raw vegetables, some identifiable and some not, and another four kinds of sour pickled vegetables. Also, a hardboiled egg. I wasn't sure what to do. It was very neatly arranged, not at all like salad.

Next came a huge bowl of noodles covered in spicy yellow coconut curry gravy. This I knew, but I was still a little nervous. Everyone was watching. I decided I should pop the veges in my mouth as I ate the noodles. It seems like an acceptable thing to do, as it produced no reaction. People will LAUGH at you if you do something wrong while eating. I always slowly reach for a sauce while looking at the cook, watching for his reaction. With five different sauces, you know there's got to be a right one and a wrong one.

I was also given a cold bottle of Coke, and it was probably the best Coke I have ever had.

Every once in a while, as I was eating, they would send over the young man with a question. I would answer and he would dutifully return to the other table and let them all in on the big secret.

I ordered another bowl of noodles. This went over really well.

When I was just finishing up, he came over and told me "Coke, 10 baht... food, no money." I protested. "No no no, not free. I pay."

"No. Coke 10 baht. OK? 10 baht."

(For those not in the know, the current exchange rate is 33.6 baht to the Canadian dollar.)

So, I paid for my coke, thanked everyone, and hit the road again.

As you can see, the roads are excellent. Perfect, even

And a beautiful little worship area.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

and now one step back...

One more post concerning Taiwan... probably.

I lived in Ilan for two years, and it was hard to leave. Apart from the lifestyle, the students were also hard to leave. I have been teaching some of these people (and little people) for a year and a half.

Here are pictures of a few of my favourites.

Children S, formally the notorious Children X class... When I first got this class I dreaded teaching them every week, but after a few months of tough "Aaron teacher" love, they came around nicely and became my favourite children's class.

Front Row Left: Henry Lin, Tina, Crazy George (frontmost), Brother and Sister Joe and Sharon, and Eric.

Middle Row Left: Henry Zhou, Judy, Karch (it becomes a name after you yell "KARCH BE QUIET!" about fifty times), New Kid, Candy, and Ella.

Back Pair: Brother and Sister John (the one with the speech impediment) and Penny.

Here is my baby class... I love these guys. They get so excited they jump on me during story time, give me spontaneous hugs, and follow me everywhere before class. So cute.

Here are a few of the hard core adult club students. From the left there's Jane, quiet girl, Karen, Peter (Koala's number one student), and Jack.

And finally Langer, who is handsome.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Holy Tropical Paradise!

I don't really have any time to write much, but I will post some pictures. As Marc suggested to me, this is in fact intended to make to all jealous.

After the first few days in Phuket riding, I put my bicycle on a boat and headed for Ko Phi Phi. It's "The Beach" dummy. You know, that movie.

And here it is, in all it's glory. Busy busy.

There are two islands out there in the Andaman Sea between Phuket and Krabi province. We took a longtail boat out to the small island to take a look on the second day. "We" being the Taiwanese man I met at the pier and stayed with on the island, and Dominic from Britian, who is heading into northern China for his second year of teaching there. Like minds get together I guess.

Our boat driver and the Thai flag.

This was the beach front of the hut I stayed in.

I went for a walk around the big island and passed these beautiful isolated beaches. The only way to get there is to take a longtail, or hike along the beach and rocks for a couple hours in the 35 degree heat. I suggest the boat, as it only costs a couple dollars. Beachfront huts here starting at $10 CDN a night.

Two small islands in the Andaman Sea seen from the viewpoint on top of Ko Phi Phi Don.

This little strip of beach was wiped out in last years tsunami. But, it's pretty well rebuilt, and I guess the crowds are returning.

Next I headed to RaiLeh. This is where all the rock climbers head.

My hut was in the trees on the left on this picture.

Ok, I'll post more soon.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Thailand Ho!

Ok, this is a quick posting to inform everyone that I am in Thailand and everything is ok.

I flew to Bangkok and connected to Phuket on the 2nd... Yesterday I did a little training ride around Phuket Island with no bags. Holy it's hot here, but fortunately I bought some cycling shirts just before I left.

In other news, I managed to lose my camera there in the final scrum in Taiwan. How? I don't know... Now I gotta buy a new one. Any recommendations?

Ok, time to get out here. Planning on going Island hopping near here soon. Anyone have any recommendations on that?